Palin--Transcending the culture wars
"So this is the little lady who made this big war." The words are said to be Abe Lincoln's upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." But they nicely capture the received wisdom about Sarah Palin and what is called the "culture war."It probably would be hard for Obama. He has clutched Roe v. Wade so close to his heart that it will be hard for him to do anything to help those who choose life. It is also a demonstration of a poor legal mind. Obama embraces empathy instead of the rule of law, but in his world the empathy is with ones who want to end life and not save it.
Under the prevailing orthodoxy, of course, liberal politicians never provoke culture wars -- only conservatives do. This logic is reflected in the headlines. Newsweek: "Palin Reignites the Culture War." U.S. News & World Report: "Sarah Palin Sparks Revival of the Culture War." Salon.com: "The Culture War: It's Back!" The Nation: "Culture War Battle Stations." The Christian Science Monitor: "The Palin Factor in the Culture Wars." And so on.
Barack Obama likes to present himself as the candidate who would move us beyond these wars. He hasn't had to work very hard at it, largely because of a national press corps that has been as accommodating to him as it has been hostile to Mrs. Palin. That's a pity, because the Alaska governor has handed him an opportunity to show he is serious about turning the page on the tired debates of the past.
This opportunity has to do with special needs children. Manifestly, Trig Palin has made the issue of special needs very real for the Palin family. Trig's presence on the campaign trail has also made him real to most Americans. And one of the lasting images from this campaign will be of his big sister Piper licking her hand and trying to slick down his hair.
In a recent speech in Pennsylvania, Mrs. Palin spoke about special needs and outlined policies she would push for in the event of a McCain-Palin victory next Tuesday. "Too often," she said, "state and federal laws added to the challenges [of special needs children] instead of removing barriers and opening new paths of opportunity."
Her prescriptions include full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, making federal funding for special needs children portable, exempting these programs from the spending freeze Mr. McCain has proposed, and allowing special needs children to use federal funds at whatever schools best meet their needs -- public or private.
Now there is little in this that is uniquely Republican, except perhaps the idea of letting these kids use federal funds for private schools. In policy terms, Democrats conceivably could even improve upon it. At the very least, a presidential candidate who has positioned himself as postpartisan should recognize the opportunity here -- and grab it.
Conceding that Mrs. Palin has a point here would not require Mr. Obama to give up anything, and would underscore a commitment to real choice instead of just abortion. It's notable that in her own remarks, Mrs. Palin admits to being scared when she and her husband learned that the child she was carrying had Down syndrome. "I had to prepare my heart," she says.
At times, Democratic leaders have been reluctant to celebrate the humanity of some of our most vulnerable members of society, lest they be thought to be starting down a slippery slope leading to a no-Roe America. Mr. Obama in fact used something of that logic in the Illinois Senate to explain why he opposed the state version of the federal Born Alive Act.
... would it really be so hard for Mr. Obama to say that the measure of the society we are working for is one that looks at Trig with the same hope and wonder that his sister Piper does?
Roe v. Wade is a terrible decision, regardless of what your position is on the availability of abortion. I call it penumbra law. The court stretched so far to come up with a rationalization for its ruling that it based it on the "emanations from the penumbra" of the bill or rights to find a privacy right to kill unborn babies. Penumbra refers to the margins around the written text on a page.